The Royal Navy, with two 65,000 tonne conventional carriers, wants the Indian Navy to fit its next carrier with British Rolls-Royce, MT-30 gas turbines which are on its two carriers – HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales. However, the Indian Navy wants to work with the US Navy, taking over its expertise in onboard operations
By Vikas Gupta
Defence News of India, 5 Mar 23
With the Indian Army still undecided whether to build a second indigenous carrier (IAC-2) or be content with its two current 45,000-ton carriers – INS Vikramaditya purchased from Russia and the first indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-1), called INS Vikrant, which was built in Cochin – experts from the Indian and US navies met in Delhi last week to discuss cooperation on aircraft carrier technology.
With the US Navy viewing its Indian counterpart as a key partner in holding the line against an aggressive China in the Indo-Pacific, Washington and New Delhi agreed in January 2015 to work together to bolster India’s capability in air operations embarked.
“The 6e meeting of the Joint Working Group on Aircraft Carrier Technology Cooperation (JWGACTC), constituted under the auspices of the Indo-US Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), was held in India from February 27 to March 3,” said the Indian ministry. of Defense (MoD) on Saturday.
The United States Navy, the world’s leading force in shipborne operations, operates a fleet of 11 100,000-ton nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. However, cooperation with the United States is limited by the Indian Navy’s decision not to use nuclear propulsion for the 65,000 ton IAC-2.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Royal Navy, which operates two 65,000-tonne conventionally powered carriers, is advocating for the Indian Navy to fit the IAC-2 with British Rolls-Royce, MT-30 gas turbines which provide electric propulsion to her two carriers – HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.
However, the Indian Navy is keen to work with the US Navy and resume its operational practices and expertise in shipboard operations.
“During the meeting, Rear Admiral Downey recognized India’s status as one of the very few nations capable of building aircraft carriers and appreciated India’s historic achievement in operating the indigenous aircraft (the Tejas light combat aircraft) from the indigenous aircraft carrier within a short period of time after the ship has been commissioned,” the MoD said.
Another lucrative area Washington is targeting is the Indian Navy’s ongoing acquisition of 57 multi-role carrier-based fighters (MRCBFs) for its current and future aircraft carriers. US aerospace giant Boeing, which accounts for most of the $18-20 billion in weapons Washington has sold to India since 2005, is pushing for its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet wins a $7-8 billion contract with the Indian Navy. contract for 57 fighters embarked on aircraft carriers.
Competing with the Super Hornet is the Rafale Marine fighter from the French company Dassault. The Rafale cannot operate its two-seater off-car variant. Both aircraft have been tested on Indian Navy aircraft carriers and the winner of the contract is expected to be announced shortly.
US Navy aircraft carriers and the Super Hornet fighters that operate from them are designed and built for “catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery” (CATOBAR). In this case, the aircraft taking off is accelerated to take-off speed by a steam or electromagnetic catapult. India’s IAC-2 is likely to be a CATOBAR carrier.
Alternatively, aircraft can be launched using STOBAR (short takeoff but arrested recovery) principles. In this, the fighters take off by taking off from a “ski jump” at the end of the flight deck. In both of these modes of operation, the aircraft lands by hooking its tail hook onto a network of three arrester wires spread across the deck, which drag them to a stop.
INS Vikramditya and Vikrant are both carriers of STOBAR. Boeing has proven that the Super Hornet can operate with both STOBAR and CATOBAR carriers.
A lesson that has been learned during carrier cooperation is that the US and Indian navies are better engines for operational cooperation than the Pentagon (US Department of Defense). It is now the two navies who pilot the technological cooperation of aircraft carriers (ACTC).
“An 11-member US delegation led by Rear Admiral James Downey (a US Navy aircraft carrier expert) visited various defense and industrial facilities in Delhi and Kochi,” the defense ministry said.